David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
In the summer of 2020, I chartered an agency-wide Task Force on Racism. One of the recommendations from the Task Force was to establish a working group that would develop an agency-wide approach to reparative description. Yale University Library notes that reparative archival description “aims to remediate or contextualize potentially outdated or harmful language used in archival description and to create archival description that is accurate, inclusive, and community-centered.”
I chartered NARA’s Reparative Description and Digitization Working Group in July 2021, and the group has been meeting regularly since. The group includes experts from across the agency with a variety of skill sets, grade levels, and backgrounds. Recently, the working group developed an initial set of Guiding Principles for reparative description based on reviews and discussions of numerous institutions’ principles. The Cataloging Lab provides a long list of statements on bias in library and archives description.
We developed and finalized six guiding principles:
NARA is also developing the structure and processes for updating harmful terms in the National Archives Catalog and developing ways to bring this work into the mainstream archival practices of the agency. You can follow our progress at Reparative Description on Archives.gov. We have a long road ahead, but with a sense of both humility and hope, we are making strides to collaborate, innovate, and learn as we go.